89% of China's River Water Too Polluted to Drink

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In China, a recent report has revealed that 89% of the drinking water doesn’t meet the national hygiene standard. With much of the water from the country’s seven major rivers polluted, one conservationist says factories and inadequate oversight are to blame.

About 89% of the drinking water from China’s seven major rivers is unclean, according to a recent report by state-run CCTV. For residents, this means having to drink water polluted with dangerous substances, like heavy metals and pesticides. Only 11% of the drinking water meets the national hygiene standard, Chinese state-run media reported.

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[Li Li, Head of EnviroFriends]: (female, Chinese)
“For example, economic development areas in coastal cities have a lot of small enterprises that enjoy a tax free status. But in two or three years, when that status runs out, these enterprises will change location, and get registered under a different name. There are a lot of these, numbering in the hundreds. On the surface they have waste management, but in fact this is not the case at all. We can’t just look at the GDP.”

In southern Guangdong Province, the Pearl River Delta has become one of the world’s major manufacturing hubs. At the same time, China’s third longest river has become heavily polluted. Last year, authorities reported the area of contaminated water in the region increased by 12% compared to 2008.

Li believes a lack of oversight by authorities has contributed to the water pollution getting worse.

[Li Li, Head of EnviroFriends]: (female, Chinese)
“I think there is still a lack of oversight, including inadequate fines for violators. A fine of 80,000 or 100,000 yuan is nothing for a major manufacturer. If this manufacturer is the largest tax payer in the region, it will be protected by the government.”

Aside from industrial pollutants, Li says agricultural chemicals and everyday waste water are also increasing the water pollution in China.

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